|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Intelligent Systems||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 5, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalonotto
While the series has a long history in Japan, Fire Emblem games have only become popular in North America since Fire Emblem 7's release on the GameBoy Advance in 2003. Since then, the franchise has garnered tons of American fans, addicted by the exciting strategy, individualized customization, and well-written storylines of the games.
Now in 2007, we get a sequel to the critically acclaimed GameCube iteration of the series (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance). The new game, titled Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, takes an interesting perspective on the story begun in the Path of Radiance. Surprisingly, Radiant Dawn is told at first from the perspective of two members of Daein, the territory that was responsible for the evil caused in Path of Radiance.
Radiant Dawn starts off following two main characters: Sothe, who players of the first GameCube game will recognize, and Micaiah, a newcomer. They are members of the Dawn Brigade, a group of freedom fighters trying to put an end to corruption and evil in Daein. I don't wish to give away any more beyond that, but I will say that as Fire Emblem fans have come to expect, Radiant Dawn is full of plot twists, and you may come to see quite a few familiar faces
Additionally, the character development is a huge step up from that in Path of Radiance. Personally, I found characters in that game to be flat and one-dimensional; the story followed a very rigid, clichéd arc and was entirely guessable. Well, Radiant Dawn puts a stop to that, and the conversations involving the game's many characters are well-written and do a fantastic job of showing multiple dimensions to a character's personality.
What Radiant Dawn does a great job with that the previous game failed at is really showing both sides of a story. Before, Daein was seen as the enemy, ruled by a crazed king and influenced by an enigmatic evildoer. Now we see the other side of that stigma, if you will, and get to see how things occurred from Daein's perspective. The game's story really possesses depth and maturity that the first game threw out the window, and for that it deserves a big clap on the back.
The place where Radiant Dawn makes no improvements whatsoever though is in terms of gameplay. The game mechanic in Fire Emblem games has remained essentially unchanged since the original game's release, aside from some minor variations in specific games. Radiant Dawn, however, sports no changes or variations at all. If you played Path of Radiance, then you already know exactly how this title plays out.
While I'm disappointed that we're essentially getting Path of Radiance with a different story arc, that's not at all to say that the game mechanic in Radiant Dawn is poor. In fact, the reason that the gameplay has remained unchanged for all these years is just because it's so well-done. The game is divided up into chapters; as you begin each chapter, you must select which characters you wish to bring into battle with you. The chapters play out on large grid-maps and take place in turn-based fashion.
As is customary with RPGs, there's a huge amount of customization to be had in Radiant Dawn. There's a limited number of characters you can take into battle, and chapters grow progressively tougher; as a result, you're going to pretty much want to pick out a party and stick with them. You want to have a well-balanced party, so much of the game's entertainment lies in selecting exactly which characters you want to use. There are also tons of different weapons in the game divided up into four classes: lances, swords, axes, and bows. While characters are restricted in the class of weapon they can use (for example, archers can only use bows), the different weapons within that class are all available.